Rugby: Duncan Hodge ready for Edinburgh role

Duncan Hodge has his sights sets on dispatching Ulster on Friday night. Picture: SNS
Duncan Hodge has his sights sets on dispatching Ulster on Friday night. Picture: SNS
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Duncan Hodge has hauled rugby teams out of tight spots on plenty of occasions.

On Edinburgh’s Euro bow away to Bath in 1996, they were staring down a barrel at 38-9 adrift on the 40-minute mark when Hodge took a hand setting up Derrick Lee for the team’s first Heineken Cup try before adding another himself to ensure a modicum of 
respectability.

Fast forward a couple of years in the same competition and it was Hodge’s injury-time 
drop goal which secured a 
38-38 draw in Ulster, while on the international stage he 
will be forever remembered for the try which clinched a 
Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield in 2000.

The following year, ex-Watsonian Hodge was centre stage again and if the circumstances of a 28-28 draw with Wales are more obscure than denting an English grand slam dream the man himself has vivid recall.

“Kenny Logan had missed his kicks and with two minutes to go (skipper) Andy Nicol handed me the ball for my first kick of the day and said ‘get a draw out of that’ . . . makes you stronger, that does,” said Hodge.

It is that inner strength that Edinburgh are banking on for a five-match run-in, although it is doubtful that he has ever had a tougher assignment than that handed him along with ex-
Scotland hooker Stevie Scott.

Specifically it is to coach the team out of a trough starting with Friday’s home RaboDirect PRO12 assignment against an Ulster side who have been 
leading the league for most of the season.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that Hodge has barely been a full-time coach for a year, having stepped up from a 
part-time remit to improve goal-kicking.

With recent charges being Chris Paterson and Greig Laidlaw, his success rate in that 
department is second to none and something similar might well be enough to secure the Edinburgh job full-time.

Hodge is looking no further than Friday, but does admit to one factor in his favour which is experience of rugby at stand off.

It is the position occupied up to A international level by the man credited with Scotland’s mini-revival, Scott Johnson, and – amongst others – Sir Ian 
McGeechan.

Hodge acknowledged: “Stand off is one of those positions where you have to link between forwards and backs.

“As a player I needed to know how forwards were thinking ... and how the backs were thinking also. (Playing No 10) probably is a very good grounding for having a broad knowledge of the game.

“There is definite nervousness today, though, even if it isn’t as bad as when I was a player.

“These are nervous times – you want to win games. And it is very different as a coach from playing albeit the next best thing. This level of professional sport is a tough place to be. As a player you are probably a lot more focused on yourself whereas coaches have to be aware of a lot more 
people, a lot more factors.

“It’s a wider spectrum of consideration based both on man-management and tactics. It’s not heavily-sided one way or another while there are also 45 pro players to be dealt with. But it is where I want to be.”

Further setting out his stall, Hodge insisted: “If there is a bounce it will be down to the players. For one reason or another the coaches catch the flak. That’s life, but players are fully aware they have a part to play as well. It is not just Stevie and I coming in, as it will be about players taking ownership as well for what has happened and what is going to happen.”

Clearly there is a 
steeliness to Hodge who, for large parts of a 26-cap career, had to play understudy to 
one Gregor Townsend, now coaching Glasgow.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating if he hung around at Edinburgh to enjoy an inter-city coaching duel with his one-time playing rival for the benefit of Scottish rugby once again?